Conversation with Alan Arnold, CTO Vision Solutions

An interesting walk down memory lane with Vision Solutions' CTO.

It's been years since I last spoke with Alan Arnold, CTO of Vision Solutions. I believe that last time we spoke was at a conference in Las Vegas sometime during the time I was VP of System Software research at IDC.

Who is Vision Solutions?

In case you're not familiar with Vision Solutions, they are an important supplier of virtual processing software products that fall into the clustering, availability and disaster recovery segments.

When I first become aware of the company, they offered what could be considered the premier product for IBM's AS/400 (now called IBM i). Since that time, they've expanded their product line quite a bit and now offer products for Windows, Linux, IBM Power Systems and Cloud Computing markets.

If your organization is using one of those platforms, it would be good to get to know what Vision Solutions does and how it could help your organization.

I told you that story to tell you this one

Although we spoke about how Vision Solutions products are seeing a great deal of success in transportation, manufacturing, gaming, finance and a couple of other markets, I'd like to focus on a small segment of a wonderful, albeit rambling, conversation about IBM i. Alan is really interesting and has a wealth of information about IBM i.

I found our conversation so interesting, that I wrote up the important points in an impact paper that can be found on (see IBM i: one of the first virtualized environments.) Thanks Alan for helping me take the walk down memory lane.


In the highly competitive market for virtualized solutions, it is easy to overlook a solution that has been here since the early 1970s, IBM’s i. I was having a really interesting discussion with the Chief Technology Officer of Vision Solutions about the role IBM i has had in the formation of virtualization. In spite of little recognition of the platform in some sectors of the IT market, it is still a popular platform in healthcare, manufacturing, financial services (banking, insurance), retail, travel and several other market segments.
The platform's success factors
  • IBM’s channel marketing and ISV support programs
  • The IBM i platform has been tuned over the years to be a very good platform for ISV software. All of the tools are in place to make it easy to provision, manage and support
  • The platform offers high levels of availability, reliability and security
  • The platform scales far enough to handle the needs of its users

What has inhibited the platform's success?
  • IBM seems to want to confuse the market because the name and marketing approach for this groundbreaking family of computing systems and system software have changed regularly.
    • When it first appeared in the early 1970s, it was known as the System/34.
    • Later, it was renamed as the System/38.
    • Still later, it became known the AS/400.
    • Then it was renamed as iSeries, then System i and now IBM i.

  • Each time there was a name change for the hardware, the software was renamed and the messaging changed along with it.

Putting the name aside for a moment, the IBM i broke so much new ground that it is hard to fathom the impact it has had on the market

What’s so interesting about IBM i?
IBM clearly was one of the companies responsible for the innovative notion that functions could be placed into an artificial or virtual environment. IBM was one of the first companies to came to understand that virtualizing the environment would bring benefits that far outweighed the technical challenges such a move would create.

If we track the history of IBM’s efforts along this line we can sketch out many different lines of virtualization that either were created for this family of systems or other IBM families of systems.


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